Empress Dowager Cixi

Chang, Jung

  11 Reviews

From minor concubine to monarch, Cixi's trajectory to power in late 19th Century China was impressive, even if she had to rule from behind a silk screen. Laying the foundation for modern China, Cixi's legacy was a many and varied one: not only developing industry and the infrastructure required to support it, but improving conditions for women by abolishing such outdated practices as foot-binding.

Meticulously researched using previously unavailable material from the imperial archives in Beijing, this is a revisionist biography of a fascinating and controversial figure and the nation she ruled. [Big read, small font]

Comments from Groups

An informative and interesting look at China. Enjoyed by the whole group. Aokau 001

A good discussion ensued although half the group had not finished the book - had struggled with the depth of detail. Most of us learnt a lot about China and her development with Cixi at the helm. Mosgiel 005

It required determination to read this through to the end. The book seemed a bit fragmented/disjointed, as if written in chunks. It was interesting as it was of a time and place few of us knew much about. Hard to know how much of it was the 'author's opinion' and how much 'well researched truth', as there was little in the way of referencing , which of course would have made it less easily readable. Auckland 174

Very well received! Auckland 287

A great book - she was a woman ahead of her time. Auckland 007

Half of our group were fascinated by this book - the best of our choices so far this year... Nelson 040



Every one of us was intrigued and captivated by this influential lady - long discussions around Chinese history, protocols, and the events she lived through and shaped. Beautifully written, well researched, and covered every opulent detail of the dynasty - a big read but thoroughly worth the effort.
Challenging read. All enjoyed it and learned a lot.
We all enjoyed the book but most failed to finish it. The story of Cixi is remarkable and one worth reading about. A woman ahead of her times and certainly very intelligent, some thought manipulative, a survivor. Not an easy read but worth the effort.
Everyone liked this book, learning much about Chinese history, and we were all filled with admiration for Cixi and her achievements. Simultaneously though, we recognise that this is a unique book densely filled with facts many of which were unknown until relatively recently. It is not an easy read, but it is a fascinating account of the life of a powerful woman breaking new ground in her culture. Jung Chang is an admirable author. Read it!!
Excellent book. One member didn't read because of time constraints. We appreciated its authenticity, interest, the easy read, and an amazing profile of a remarkable woman. Would recommend this to all readers.
AUCK 009
We all loved this book, and thought it was amazingly well researched and skilfully written. We also thought that Cixi was an amazing woman who navigated her way cleverly in a male-dominated world. It was a very solid read however, requiring concentration and time to work out who everyone was. We felt a bit rushed and thought it would have given us more time had it been a two-month book.
CHCH 171
The book was very readable and engrossing - a remarkable woman! Some of our group had not finished the book but they intend to do so. We had an animated discussion but feel we would need to do additional reading to answer question #7 in particular.
CHCH 088
Only 2 members did not read the book - it was a heavy challenging read for summer, but well worth the effort. What an amazing woman to have achieved what she did at a time when women were not meant to lead, or rule a country. We all learnt so much about China; and the Western and Eastern countries involved in the events of the time. Not always a flattering picture of those countries!
CHCH 145
Everyone loved the book - we were fascinated by the history and the look into the lives of Chinese emperors in the Forbidden Palace...the rules, etiquette, ruthlessness and power. Empress Dowager Cixi was an amazing ruler who brought China into the modern world.
MAST 008
Loved the book.
CHCH 240
Very interesting and well-written account of a remarkably clever and impressive woman, born long before her time! Educational and informative, relatively easy to read but so much detail. As ahistory of China it was fascinating; she was a forward-thinking woman with great ideas, albeit with the limitations of ruling behind a silk curtain. Gave a good understanding of China's history and helped our understanding of China today. Thoroughly enjoyable. This is a very long read and recommended as a holiday read as many didn't manage to finish it to the end.